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(Photos: Academically gifted students from China listen attentively to a course on understanding U.S. culture as part of the China BESTS Program at the University of Iowa this summer.)

July 8, 2009

Gifted Chinese students visit UI campus, community for immersion experience

A group of academically gifted high school students from China is experiencing everything from classes in anthropology and rhetoric to a trip to the Figge Art Museum in Davenport and a local water park, thanks to a relatively new program at the University of Iowa.

The China BESTS (Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search) Program has brought 21 Chinese students to the UI campus for a two-week program now through Saturday, July 18 that includes immersion in both the classroom and in the community. The program offers students a taste of what it is like to be a university student in the United States while helping establish Chinese gifted education programs.

A cooperative agreement between the UI College of Education's Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and the Hangzhou Harvest Consulting Company Lt., a Chinese consulting company, made the program possible. The Chinese high school students, who are completing their junior year in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, were selected to attend the summer course by an academic talent search.

Jan Warren, Belin-Blank Center administrator for student programs, said this is an excellent opportunity for some of the most academically promising students to get a taste of life at a major Big 10 Midwestern university.

"We are trying to expose the students to several different academic courses as well as the UI in general," Warren said. "At the end of the two week session, we hope that the students have a clearer idea as to what college is like in the U.S. as well as a good sense of the UI. We hope that their familiarity with Iowa, as well as their strong connection to the Belin-Blank Center, will influence their decision to attend the UI."

The students are currently taking six classes taught by UI faculty and staff while gaining exposure to different UI departments and areas of expertise. They are also taking preparatory sessions for the ACT and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and attending U.S. culture sessions organized by the Belin-Blank Center.

The students are also participating in evening and weekend cultural, recreation and social events including visiting a water park, the Figge Art Museum in Davenport to see Pollock's "Mural" and other modern masterpieces that are part of the UI Museum of Art collection and visiting local recreation areas such as the Lake MacBride Nature Center.

This is the second year that students have participated in the summer program. Last summer, 38 students visited the UI campus. Eleven of those students have been accepted at the UI and will begin their undergraduate studies this fall as part of the Belin-Blank Center transition program for gifted students. They will also live in Daum Honors Residence Hall and be part of the UI Honors Program.

Warren said the plan is to continue to expand the program, which strengthens the UI's goal of increasing international undergraduate enrollment.

"The UI has always valued our international students, but there is a renewed interest in expanding the number of international undergraduate students," Warren said. "China BESTS is a wonderful collaboration to identify some of the very best students in China and give them an opportunity to experience college life in the U.S. while they are still in high school. Beyond this summer, these students will have the opportunity to study at Iowa and receive many benefits and services from the Belin-Blank Center."

For more information on the China BESTS Scholar Program or a complete schedule, contact Jan Warren at 319-330-9374.

For more information on the Belin-Blank Center, visit

EDITOR'S NOTE: This program offers many good video footage and photo opportunities. Contact Jan Warren at 319-330-9374 to arrange an interview or for a complete schedule.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jan Warren, Belin-Blank Center, 319-330-9374,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,